Handling Holiday Traditions as a Family Caregiver

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? Maybe we should change the words of that song to be: It’s the most…stressful time of the year? Maybe it’s the most hectic time of the year? Or it’s the most frustrating time of the year? Well, at least that one works rhythmically 😉

Our family loves the holidays. The music, the lights, the food, and the traditions are all near and dear to our hearts. We decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving and take it all down sometime in January. It’s a busy season, with church events and concerts, parties, end-of-year obligations as business owners, and shopping for gifts large and small. We have traditional recipes we use year after year. We read the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, and A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore on Christmas Eve before bed.  We’ve taken the same Christmas morning photo of our kids in their Christmas PJ’s on the staircase that comes down to the kitchen from their bedrooms for ten years now. This year will be different because we will have an extra “kid” as our son-in-law joins the ranks on Christmas morning!

This year our Christmas will be a little different in another way as well because we don’t know what our holiday season will hold with Betsy’s mom’s recent change in health. Betsy knows that her brother could call at any minute to say she needs to come quickly. Of course, we have all known for years that this could happen, but it feels much closer now since her mom’s change in condition.

As a Family Caregiver, you know how unpredictable your schedule may be on any given day. Depending on the condition of the person you care for, or the care plan you have set up, you might have the freedom to keep up with a hectic holiday schedule, but it also might not be worth the effort. Ask yourself this question: do you have room to breathe deeply, to relax, to soak in a hot tub or enjoy a quiet cup of tea every day during the holidays? If not, you might want to rethink your schedule and your stress level!

Here’s an exercise to help you determine what might be negotiable this holiday season.

  1. Make a list of everything that is “tradition” during your holidays.
  2. Next to the items on your list, give each item a value of zero to five, with five being most important things you love about the holidays and zero being completely unimportant.
  3. Remove all the items that ranked as a zero. (Duh!)
  4. Now, look at your list one more time, to make sure there are no more zeros hiding there.
  5. Look at everything ranked one, two, or three and consider to whom you might delegate these items. Delegate them, or ask yourself, if it didn’t happen this year would it matter? If the answer is “no”, then re-rank it a zero and remove it from your list.
  6. Look at all the fives on your list. Do you really love all of these items? If you do, then make room for them in your schedule and enjoy them for all they are worth. Do the same for the traditions you ranked with a four as well, as you have time.
  7. Consider the ones, twos, and threes that you didn’t delegate. Seriously, to whom can you transfer these traditions? Or can they happen outside of the holiday crush? You could enjoy Christmas cookies in January when it’s cold outside. Skip hosting a get-together until after the holidays, when people are moving more slowly and looking for something to do.

Now, look at your list one last time. All you should have left on your list are the things you truly love about the holidays. These won’t feel like chores; they will be highlights of your month. They should bring you joy and pleasure and will make you a better Family Caregiver for your loved one.

What ranks as a five on your list? Join the conversation and share your heart!

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